81% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.
Plus500 is one of the top trading platforms in the world. It’s well established, secure, and super popular – there's over 24 million users across the world.
The platform is easy to use, packed with trading tools, and some great, unique features such as +Insights – where you get information (insights) based on other traders on the platform, such as what investments are trending, most profitable, most bought and sold etc – it's all very cool, and super useful.
It’s low cost too (commission-free), and the customer service is excellent. It's the go-to trading platform for most traders.
Platform experience: awesome Device options: website, tablet and phone app Support: 24/7 Stocks & Shares ISA: no Pension (SIPP): no Range of investments: large Stocks: yes ETFs: yes Fractional shares: no Crypto: yes (not UK) CFDs: yes Forex: yes (CFDs) Account fee: free Cost per trade: free Spread fees: yes (low) Currency conversion fee: 0.70%
Plus500UK Ltd authorised & regulated by the FCA (#509909). Note: 81% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.
XTB is an awesome trading platform. The trading software (xStation 5) is one of the best out there – it's super easy to use, and has all the trading features you need – with a great charting system. And trading speeds are fast. Mobile trading is great too.
It's one of the largest in the world, and the go-to place for foreign exchange and CFD trading. With high leverage margin trading (borrowed money) and the ability to trade both price directions (so shorting too).
It works great on mobile, as well as desktop and tablet. And the customer service is excellent, with your own personal account manager.
Platform experience: awesome Device options: website, tablet and phone app Support: 24/5 Stocks & Shares ISA: no Pension (SIPP): no Range of investments: large Stocks: yes ETFs: yes Fractional shares: no Crypto: yes (not UK) CFDs: yes Forex: yes Account fee: free Cost per trade: free Spread fees: yes (low) Currency conversion fee: 0.50%
Spread bets and CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 70% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading spread bets and CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how spread bets and CFDs work, and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.
The best traditional stock trading platform in the UK
If you’re a bit more old school and feel like you want a long established company with a trustworthy history, or perhaps you want to make trades over the phone – and there’s nothing wrong with any of that! Here's the best traditional trading platform.
AJ Bell is well established, with a good reputation.
It's one of the cheapest traditional stock brokers out there (charging a low annual fee).
There's a huge range of investment options – pretty much every investment out there (including both funds and shares).
Trading 212 is a platform built for everyone in mind – there's over 2,000,000 customers! It’s great for beginners to get started, and perfect for experienced investors too with a huge range of investment options.
It’s also the cheapest platform out there, completely commission free, and the lowest fees when buying foreign stocks.
Not investment advice. Investments can rise and fall, and your capital is at risk.
Our criteria for comparing the best trading platforms
To determine the best trading platforms, we focused on 5 main areas:
Range of investments (assets)
Trading features (such as stop-loss and limit orders)
The platform experience
There’s loads of online trading platforms out there, but we’re only showing you the best – ones we’ve recommended to our own friends and family, so you can be confident that you’ll be using one of the best online trading platforms (UK), whichever platform you decide to go with.
You could also try them all out to see which one you prefer – you can have as many as you like! (providing you only have one Stocks & Shares ISA.)
What actually is a trading platform?
A trading platform, or a stock trading platform, is simply a place to buy and sell (trade) investments. However, they’re a bit more sophisticated than a regular stock broker, or investment platform, as you tend to make lots of trades daily.
A trading platform is much more advanced, and will show you real-time prices of assets (the investments), alongside things like volume of trades (how many people are buying and selling) – normally all within a chart, with some more great charting tools for technical analysis. So you’ll always have up-to-date information to make the right trading decisions.
Often, experienced traders and professional traders require such advanced trading tools (and charting tools) that they use separate advanced trading software that connects to a broker, rather than trading on the broker’s platform itself. A good example of this is MetaTrader 4 and MetaTrader 5 – regularly used for forex trading.
Some professional traders even build their own software, especially for automated trading – even the best stock trading platforms aren’t good enough!
The broker will then execute the orders sent by the stock trading platforms. Although some brokers do have great trading platforms themselves, such as XTB¹.
What’s the best online trading platform for beginners?
If you’re just starting out in stock trading, great! However, a word of caution, there’s a lot to learn! Expect to lose money a lot in the early days of trading, and always stick to the right trading size for your total portfolio (bankroll).
It’s also a great idea to keep a trading journal and track every trade – you’ll learn a lot from your mistakes! And don’t forget to keep learning about market research, fundamental analysis and technical analysis.
And, there’s a good range of investment options, great trading tools, a low minimum deposit, mobile trading and great customer support.
It’s low cost too, with commission free trading and no account fees – although there are foreign exchange fees.
Note: most online trading platforms have demo accounts for CFD trading too.
What assets can you trade?
With an online trading platform, you’ll often just be trading company shares listed on a stock exchange, but you can also buy ETFs, investment trusts, REITs, OEICs, OEICs, IPOs, SPACs and more. Wow, that's a lot of acronyms! These are all often called assets. Let’s go through what they mean:
Stocks and shares (equities)
These are small ownership stakes of individual companies, so when you buy them you own part of the company. They are traded (bought and sold) on stock exchanges, and as the company grows in value, so does the share price.
Initial public offering (IPOs)
An IPO is when a private company begins trading on a stock exchange, and therefore becomes a public company, and open to the public to invest in (by buying shares in the company). These can be incredibly popular depending on the company undergoing the IPO.
Special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs)
These are newly formed companies listed on stock exchanges, that have the sole purpose of raising money from investors, to then go out and buy an existing business. They are often called ‘blank check’ shell companies. They have become quite popular as an alternative to a traditional IPO, as they’re often much easier for companies to ‘go public’ and list on a stock exchange.
Investment funds (mutual funds)
Exchange-traded funds (ETFs)
These are a group or combination of individual shares, which could be a group of companies in a similar industry, such as electric vehicles, or a group of large successful companies such as the top 100 companies in the UK (FTSE 100). You can simply buy a share of the ETF rather than all the individual shares. The ETF will trade on a stock exchange too.
These are actual companies listed on a stock exchange, but instead of trading like a business, they only invest in other businesses – and their investments can be in any company, not just those listed on the stock market, so private companies and brand new businesses.
Real-estate investment trusts (REITs)
These companies only invest in real estate, and often commercial real estate, such as offices, hotels, shops and warehouses. The property would generate income (often rent) and this income is often given back to investors regularly (called dividends).
Open-ended investment companies (OEICs)
Are UK based investment funds (which just means a group of investments and investors). With OEICs new shares are issued when someone purchases them, rather than having a fixed number of shares. They are run by investment fund managers, and more suited to hands-off investors.
Foreign exchange (forex)
Foreign exchange is super popular across the world, and it’s where you swap one currency for another, as simple as that. For instance Pounds (GBP) to US Dollars (USD). There’s over 180 currencies in the world, so lots of trading opportunities.
The exchange rate is constantly changing, all down to world events and local economies, making it an exciting and potentially lucrative asset class to trade. Forex markets run 24 hours a day during the week too. If you want to learn more, check out the best forex trading platforms.
Bonds are where you essentially loan your money to governments around the world (government bonds), and large corporations (corporate bonds), in return for interest payments. The bond itself has a value. These are typically seen as lower risk than equities (stocks and shares).
Commodities are real things like gold and silver, and even oil and coffee. And these are super popular too – and traded all across the world, 24 hours a day, 5 days a week.
The future of money, and possibly the future of everything. Without getting too confusing, these are tokens (or coins) that are issued by a company on a blockchain, such as a coin on the blockchain Ethereum, or a coin of the blockchain itself, which is used to keep the blockchain running. (if you're looking to trade crypto often, check out the best crypto exchanges UK and how to buy ethereum and how to buy bitcoin.
What’s a fractional share?
Sometimes the share price of a company can be pretty high. If you take Netflix for instance, their share price has reached over $600. Traditionally, you would have had to buy a whole share with $600 in cash to be able to invest in Netflix.
For most investors, that’s a bit too much money to have in just one company, and a lot of investors, particularly beginners, won't have $600 in their account.
This is where fractional shares come in. You can buy a portion of a share, for instance, 25% of a share (or ¼ of a share). Or, you could buy as little as 1%, it all depends on how much money you want to invest in a company, rather than how much the share is worth.
So in our example above, you could invest $100 in Netflix and receive ⅙ of a share. It makes investing with smaller budgets a lot easier, and gives you access to more companies with high share prices.
What’s a CFD and how are they different?
You might see some of the best trading platforms use CFDs, such as eToro (here's our eToro UK review). And here’s where it gets a bit complicated. A CFD is a Contract For Difference, which means you are entering into an agreement (a contract) with someone, normally a broker, about the price direction of something, normally an asset, such as the price of a stock going up in the future.
When you close the trade, which means you don’t want to be in the trade anymore, perhaps the price has increased to your profit target, the contract ends, and you are paid out the difference between your purchase price and closing price. And vis-versa if you close the trade at a loss.
Sound confusing? Let’s get into that a bit more, you aren’t purchasing any assets, such as shares or ETFs. You are in fact, just interacting with a broker and agreeing a trade on the price direction of an asset (up or down).
On the surface, it’s very similar to buying stocks and shares, the difference is you don’t own the asset, you are just effectively placing a (hopefully sensible) bet on the price.
They’re great for trading strategies where you want to get in and out quickly and easily, such as short-term day-trading trading strategies. And if you’re trading regularly it can be cost-effective – particularly if your current broker is very expensive and charges per trade.
They’re not meant for long-term investment strategies, when it’s often cheaper to buy and own the asset directly.
And as you can trade any price direction, you can bet on the price falling, which is often difficult to do without CFDs. This is called shorting, and is a good tool for advanced trading strategies as it allows you to hedge certain investments if you want to (which means adding some insurance if the trade goes against you). You’re then also able to trade when the market declines and prices fall.
You can trade CFDs on a huge range of assets, such as stocks, ETFs, indices and currencies (foreign exchange). Even crypto (but unfortunately not in the UK).
Another major benefit of CFDs is the ability to use leverage, which means borrowing money from a broker for your trades and magnifying your profits (and losses). For instance, you could use £50 as security (collateral), to make a trade with the broker for £250 worth of shares, using 5:1 leverage.
If the price increases by 10%, you have now made £25 profit (10% of £250), so 50% profit on your £50, rather than £5, which is what you would have made if you traded with just your £50. Quite a big difference.
However, if the price of the asset went down 10%, your £50 would only be worth £25. (10% of £250).
For this reason, extreme caution should be used, and it’s only for advanced traders.
Is spread betting the same as CFDs?
Nope! But very similar.
Spread betting is placing a bet on the price of the asset either going up or down in value, and is often used with leverage (borrowed funds). The assets are normally stocks, currencies or commodities (like gold).
The main difference is with spread betting you’ll be betting on the price in the future, and specifying a specific date, called an expiration date, and settle the bet on that date. With CFDs, there’s no expiration date and you can close the trade whenever you like.
It’s tax-free (as it’s gambling), and normally commission-free too.
Common trading fees
Unfortunately trading isn’t free – there are trading fees. And these normally come in the form of a spread fee. This is where the broker (online trading platform) effectively marks up the asset very slightly vs the actual price of the asset at that moment in time.
It’s a bit confusing, and it varies depending on what asset you are trading, and even what time of the day you are trading – when there’s more volume, the fees tend to be lower. For specific assets, check the broker's website.
We’ve reviewed the trading fees for most of the brokers, and all of the best trading platforms above are some of the cheapest platforms in the UK.
And unlike an investment platform or stock broker, there’s not normally fees to hold assets within your trading account, or a share dealing fee, as you aren’t actually buying the asset directly – normally just trading the price via CFDs.
You might pay an overnight fee if you hold your positions overnight. And there’s typically a foreign exchange fee, which we’ll cover below. There could also be small withdrawal fees too.
What’s a currency conversion fee?
When you trade stocks and ETFs from across the world on different stock exchanges (e.g. the London Stock Exchange in the UK and the New York Stock Exchange in the US), you’ll be trading in different currencies. It’s great to have access to all of these different assets, and the potential to find assets you like and make money is much higher.
However, the platform itself needs to convert your current currency, for instance British Pounds into the currency of the stock, for instance US Dollars, if you want to purchase a stock in the US, such as Google.
Unfortunately, this is not free, and this costs the platform itself money, so often they’ll charge this to you.
A fee is normally based on the exchange rate at that moment in time, called the spot exchange rate, plus an extra fee, anywhere from 0% to 1.5%+, depending on the trading platform. Normally it's 0.50%.
What is Stamp Duty?
When you buy shares in a UK company, you’ll often need to pay Stamp Duty Reserve Tax (SDRT), which is a tax on purchasing assets. It’s similar to when you buy a home too.
When you purchase UK shares directly, for instance via stock broker, or a share trading app, you’ll often have to pay Stamp Duty. And this 0.50% of the purchase price.
There’s some good news though, you won’t pay Stamp Duty on ETFs, or on any IPOs, or any shares on the London Stock Exchange’s AIM market (an exchange for smaller companies).
And there’s no Stamp Duty to pay on any shares outside of the UK, so European and US stocks are tax free!
However, on CFD trading platforms, you won’t pay this, as you’re not buying the asset directly. Result!
This is another reason why lots of experienced traders tend to favour trading CFDs over purchasing stocks and shares directly.
Capital Gains Tax
Although you can get away with not paying Stamp Duty when trading CFDs, you can’t get away from Capital Gains Tax unfortunately!
Capital Gain Tax is a tax on your investment profits over the tax year (April 6th to April 5th the following year), and applies if you make a profit of over £6,000.
You’ll pay 10% if your total income within the year (e.g. salary) is less than £50,270, and 20% tax if you earn over £50,270 per year.
Do trading platforms have Stocks & Shares ISAs?
Trading platforms don’t normally have Stocks and Shares ISAs as part of their actual trading platform experience – that’s because a lot of trading is done using CFDs, and with these, you aren’t actually buying the underlying investment, just trading the price.
Trading platforms do sometimes have a separate account where you can buy investments within a Stocks and Shares ISA. For instance Trading 212¹. And there, you’ll be buying the actual investment (e.g. shares), and normally, holding for long periods of time, rather than short term day trading.
What’s a self-managed Stocks & Shares ISA?
A self-managed Stocks & Shares ISA, or sometimes called a self-select Stocks & Shares ISA, is a trading or investment account with all the benefits of an ISA – i.e. you can invest £20,000 per year, and everything you make from the total amount within it is completely tax free!
You can buy whichever investment funds or shares you want to, providing the online trading platform has them available – all the decisions are yours, and never pay tax on the profit, ever.
The opposite of a self-managed Stocks & Shares ISA, is an expert-managed Stocks & Shares ISA, where experts in investing will be deciding which investments to make for you.
You’d normally select an investment plan from a few options, such as an ethical investment plan, or the platform's standard plan. Add your money, then just sit back, relax and watch your money grow. A good example, and great investment platform is Moneyfarm.
What’s a SIPP?
A SIPP is a Self-Invested Personal Pension. That’s a pension that you can build and manage yourself, which you can have in addition to a pension with an employer (workplace pension) and the government (state pension).
It’s an investment account you can have, just like a Stocks & Shares ISA, or a General Investment Account, where you are free to make any investments you like. You are in control.
And better yet, you get tax relief on your contributions, which means free money from the government on any money you add into the account, all added automatically by your investment platform.
If you’re a basic rate tax payer (that’s earning under £50,270 per year), you’ll get 25% added to your account of whatever amount you put in (which works out as 20% tax relief).
And if you’re a higher rate tax payer (earning over £50,270 per year), you can get 40% tax relief, and it’s 45% for additional rate tax payers (earning over £150,000 per year). You’ll have to claim the additional 20% or 25% tax relief yourself from HMRC via self-assessment tax return.
You can’t put in more than your salary though, and there’s a cap of £60,000 too – whichever is higher.
There’s one downside however, you can’t access the money within your pension until aged 55, or 57 from 6 April 2028. So make sure this is the right option for you before opening an account.
What's General Investment Accounts (GIA)?
A General Investment Account (GIA), or commonly known as a brokerage account, sounds a bit more complicated than it is. You can think of it as just a regular account, without all the bells and whistles of an ISA or pension account.
They’re great because if you’re already using your ISA allowance on another platform or with an investment account elsewhere, you can still trade. And, you can have as many GIA accounts as you like!
The downside is that you’ll have to start paying Capital Gains Tax if your profits exceed the Capital Gains Tax allowance of £6,000 over a tax year – April 6th to April 5th the following year. The current rate is 20% tax. You can register and pay it all online these days, all super easy.
Don’t let tax put you off trading or investing, you only pay tax on profits. And you get to keep the remaining 80%. Think of the money!
But if you can, use your Stocks & Shares ISA allowance first! You can transfer your ISA to a new uk trading platform if you like too – the new platform will handle the transfer for you.
How much do I have to invest to start with?
All of these trading platforms allow you to invest with very little! If you pick Trading 212 for instance, you can trade with very little. Other platforms you might have to add around £25 to get started. Great for beginners!
With expert-managed Stocks & Shares ISAs, you might have to add a bit more, sometimes a few hundred pounds to get started, as they’ll be doing some work on your behalf getting your account set up.
If you’re not ready to deposit anything into a trading platform yet, you can try a demo account first.
Is a stock trading app a trading platform?
Yep! A stock trading app is an online trading platform – you can do everything on the go these days.
Sometimes you won’t get the same functionality with an app as you do on a website, so they might not be the best for you. It comes down to what you want to do, and how much data and tools you need as part of your trading strategy.
However most web-based trading platforms have a mobile app too, so you don’t need to choose between them. If you’re at home or work you could use your computer, and if you’re out, use the mobile app for quick trades – maybe some big news has come out and you want to buy or sell your position.
Or, you could just use the mobile app for everything! The choice is yours.
What’s a retail investor?
A retail investor is someone who’s not trading as their profession – they are using a personal broker account (such as one with our best online stock brokers UK) to buy and sell investments for themselves, often stocks and ETFs. You’re probably one if you’re reading this!
If it was your profession, you’d often be called an institutional investor, and you’d normally be managing a fund, such as a pension fund, hedge fund or fund within an investment bank, and with significantly more money under your management than a retail investor.
Sometimes professionals are called sophisticated investors and retail investors unsophisticated investors, as they don’t tend to have the same skills, experience or money (it's actually a real definition by the FCA). Although it doesn’t really mean you’re not sophisticated – we’re sure you’ve got loads of style.
There’s a lot of retail investors out there too – and can cause a big impact on the markets. Often panic selling (everyone selling) happens because of ‘the crowd’ following each other, and influencing each other. That’s all part of trading though! Good luck out there, we’re rooting for you.
What does commission-free mean?
Lot’s of the more modern trading apps and investment platforms are offering commission-free trading these days – which is great for you and me! It means there’s no cost to either buy or sell an investment. Awesome.
It’s semi-revolutionary because stock brokers have always charged a fee to trade for their clients – and it can sometimes be expensive. If you use a more traditional broker like Hargreaves Lansdown, they’ll charge as much as £11.95 per trade. Quite a lot for most traders with smaller balances – and makes most trades not worthwhile.
So commission-free helps out the little guy more, you can trade with a lot less money, and not worry about fees taking a significant chunk of your profit.
It doesn’t mean platforms are fee-free though. You’ll often still have to pay an account fee, which is often either a fixed fee per month or a percentage of your portfolio (the money in your account).
What’s the Financial Services Compensation Scheme?
It’s completely free, and you don’t need to sign up to anything, it’s set up by the government to protect customers not just on uk trading platforms, but with any financial institution holding customers money – even things like mortgages.
You’re covered up to £85,000 per company, and basically if the company goes out of business and doesn’t give you your money back, the FSCS will.
Should I use a demo account first?
You don’t have to, but if you’re not comfortable using real cash, then go for it!
However, don’t use a demo account for too long, as once you learn the basics of how to trade and make investments, you’ll want to get real-world experience, even if you’re losing.
When it’s your own money, it’s a lot different and you’ll feel the right emotions and think about risk management, rather than trying to gamble everything!
What about foreign exchange trading (forex)?
Foreign exchange (forex) trading is super popular, in fact, it’s one of the biggest markets in the world. It moves fast and is active 24 hours a day, 5 days a week. There’s never a dull moment, with news across the world impacting prices of currencies.
Let’s rewind slightly and explain what forex actually is. It’s simply swapping one currency for another. It’s trading currencies like Dollars (USD) and Pounds (GBP) for each other (swap).
The currencies you want to trade and swap are called a currency pair. So for instance, swapping GBP for USD would be the currency pair GBP/USD.
There’s a lot of currencies out there, and the prices are constantly changing. Even small changes can have big impacts for traders, as with forex you have the ability to use leverage, which is borrowing money from the broker to make your trades bigger. And it’s very popular.
For instance, if you wanted to trade with £50, and had the ability for 5x leverage with your trading platform, you’d be able to place a trade worth £250. This would increase your profits by 5x (as well as your losses).
And, there we have it
And that’s all there is to it for the best uk trading platforms. Thanks to awesome technology, you can trade from the comfort of your own home, or out in the wild, wherever you are, all on your phone. No more calls with old school brokers, unless you want to!
Better yet, you can trade instantly, and far cheaper on a trading platform, and ultimately make more money. It’s a win-win.
And on a serious note, your money is at risk when you trade, so please trade sensibly, and stick to a trading and investment strategy that works for you. Always do your own research on investments, and be smart – use proper risk management. Good luck!
Oh and by the way, if you're not looking to trade regularly, but invest with a longer-term view, check out our best investment platforms UK.
Best trading platform
Plus500 is a great choice. The trading experience is awesome and the fees are low.
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